HISTORY OF WLSCC

This article was originally published in the Santa Cruz County Bar Association's Bar Briefs in the Santa Cruz County Bar Association "Bar Briefs" newsletter, 3rd qtr, 2013 – July 1 thru Sept 30, and is reprinted here, with permission.


Bar Briefs graciously invited Women Lawyers of Santa Cruz County (WLSCC) to provide a retrospective on women attorneys in our county in conjunction with Women’s History month in March. WLSCC is pleased to do so and is grateful to Bar Briefs for this opportunity. 

History: The Santa Cruz County women lawyers group came together informally in 1975 when Sara Clarenbach, who had landed here at the Legal Aid Society in 1974, gathered together the then five other practicing women
attorneys (Hermia Kaplan, Nancy Kepple, Mary Osgood Kester, Marilyn Liddicoat, and Marsha Shanle) for informal social events. Women lawyers practicing in Santa Cruz County before 1974 included June Borina, (District Attorney, 1947 to 1954), women attorneys at the Legal Aid Society, Kay Bowden and others. 

 

Motivating Factors: In those early days, the loosely knit group, both social and professional, primarily centered around food, kids, conviviality, and informal mentoring. Sara’s vision was that the women lawyers would support each other, mentor each other, enhance professionalism, network, and provide a way to reach out to women law students, and to other women professionals. Those themes have endured for these many years, and in fact are the core concepts of the mission and programming of WLSCC today. 

WLSCC Mission: “Women Lawyers of Santa Cruz County promotes the advancement of women in the legal profession and is an active advocate for the concerns of women in society.” 

More women Lawyers and evolution of the organization: The number of women attorneys in Santa Cruz County has gradually increased, starting with the hiring of women in the District Attorney’s office, County Counsel’s office and Public Defender’s office, and in the private sector. In 1981, under the leadership of Valerie McGuire, the women attorneys set about organizing. In 1995, Women Lawyers of Santa Cruz County was incorporated, obtained tax-exempt status effective that year, and became an MCLE provider. 

WLSCC Programming: In furtherance of its mission, WLSCC provides year-round programming, usually including MCLE credit, oftentimes in collaboration with other voluntary bars, including the Santa Cruz County Bar Association and the Family Law Bar, and other partner organizations, including California Women Lawyers, UCSC, and the Santa Cruz Reproductive Rights Network. Programs include: 

 

1. Annual “Meet and Greet” with women elected officials, a popular event which draws numerous women office holders, who greatly enjoy the interaction with women lawyers. Frequent attendees Capitola Mayor Stephanie Harlan and Santa Cruz Mayor Hilary Bryant agree that, “The meetings amongst the women lawyers and the elected women of Santa Cruz County are a wonderful way forustogetto know each other. It is important to support one another in our endeavors and to encourage the next generation of women to get involved in changing our community, state and nation for the better. We are handing the next generation many serious challenges. Let us help them to meet these challenges with strength, compassion, wisdom, and a sense of hope.” 

2. Annual Women Doctor/Women Lawyer Spring Colloquy, since the 1980s, including in 2013 “Law Enforcement (Gun Control) and Mental Health,” featuring Morro Bay Police Chief Amy Christey, formerly a Lieutenant with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Department, and Rama Khalsa, Ph.D., retired Santa Cruz County Director of the Health Services Agency, currently Interim County Mental Health Director 

3. Periodic special events 
In 1996, a presentation at Cabrillo College’s Sesnon House by California Supreme Court Associate Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdeger along with then-Appellate Court Associate Justice Carol Corrigan, now a California Supreme Court Associate Justice.

In approximately 1998, a presentation also at Sesnon House, by California Supreme Court Justice Joyce Kennard. 

In 2011, in collaboration with the Santa Cruz County Bar Association, WLSCC hosted the California Supreme Court Chief Justice Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who visited the Santa Cruz courthouse, met with Judges and court staff, and addressed over 100 attorney attendees at a reception at Chaminade, which occasion also marked the dedication of WLSCC’s Judge Kathleen Akao lectern, which was placed in Department 5, the ceremonial courtroom. 

In 2012, from first-hand knowledge, UCSC Professor Bettina Aptheker spoke on “The Angela Davis Trial (1970- 1972) How the Case was Won,” an absolutely riveting presentation, attended also by many criminal defense attorneys and staff members.

 

4. Annual December holiday party, for members and bench officers, always well-attended! [Guess what: if you join, or if you are a bench officer, you are invited!] 

5. Programs and initiatives on same sex marriage, for example, WLSCC hosted Santa Clara University Law School professors Jean Love and Patricia Cain as speakers on the In Re Marriages cases; WLSCC signed on to an anti-Prop 8 amicus brief in the Proposition 8 case (the voter-approved initiative banning same sex marriage in California); has hosted numerous speakers on related issues for a number of years, as listed on the WLSCC website www.wlscc.org. 

WLSCC Impact: WLSCC has worked to eliminate gender bias, to promote best practices in the legal profession, and has earned respect and cachet amongst the members of the bench and bar. The organization has grown in numbers, reach and engagement, and stature, since its informal beginnings 38 years ago. The organization provides networking opportunities, mentoring, MCLE, a supportive professional and personal environment for women attorneys and law students at all career stages and ages to interact with one another and with women professionals in public service, whether they be lawyers or not. WLSCC also assists Santa Cruz County women lawyers to connect with the larger legal world through its affiliation with California Women. 

Lawyers and its participation in events associated with State Bar meetings. 

Women Lawyers in Leadership Positions: Currently, of the eleven Santa Cruz County Superior Court judges, four are women, in order of seniority: Heather Morse, Denine Guy, Ariadne Symons, and Rebecca Connolly. Both Superior Court Commissioners are women: Kim Baskett and Jana Kast Davids. Kathleen Akao served as an elected Superior Court Judge from 1994 until her untimely passing in 2005. Charlotte Cloud served previously as a Superior Court Commissioner (1992-2000). 

 

Women attorneys have:
    • Served in visible positions in County government, for example Susan Mauriello, the County’s Chief Administrative Officer, Department heads Dana McCrae, County Counsel, Dania Torres-Wong, formerly Personnel Department Director and is now a partner in a San Francisco law firm, and Kate Canlis, District Attorney (2000-2002). For many years women attorneys have served on the Board of Supervisors, for example Marilyn Liddicoat, Pat Liberty, Ellen Pirie and Jan Beautz. Christine Patton served as our Court Executive Officer (1988-2002), and thereafter at the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) as AOC Regional Administrative Director (2002-2012). 
   
    • Become partners in our county’s law firms in increasing numbers, as reflected in law firm website listings, beginning with Jeanne Struck at Grunsky, Ebey, and Sandy McCormack at Britton and Jackson
    
    • Served as President of the Santa Cruz County Bar Association, in chronological order, including Sara Clarenbach, Sandy McCormack, Jill Wilson, Ginaia Kelly, Marsha Shanle, Michelle Anderson, and Tamyra Rice. 

    • Served as President of Santa Cruz County Trial Attorneys, in chronological order, Denine Guy, Sara Clarenbach, Sally Williams, Laura Walther. 

    • Chaired many important committees and sections within the Bar Association and other voluntary bars, and on Bench Bar committees and subcommittees. 

    • Served on the Law Library board of Trustees, in chronological order: Sara Clarenbach, Christine Patton, Judge Heather Morse, Jeanne Struck, Judge Kathleen Akao, Heidi Simonson, Julie Dunger, and Julia Hill. Marsha Shanle was the County Law Librarian in 1970. 

 

Women attorney award recipients: Women attorneys have consistently received awards from voluntary bar associations: 

    • The Bar Association’s Roland K. Hall Award: Sara Clarenbach, Jill Wilson, Alyce Prudden, Marsha Shanle, Margaret Leonard, Rebecca Connolly, Dina Hoffman 

    • The Bar Association’s Pro Bono Award: Lori Klein, Robin Towse, Marsha Shanle, Karyn Ryan, Kate Wells, Heidi Simonson, Vilma Guerrero, Lucille des Jardins, Leola Lapides, Darcee Olson, Elizabeth Chance 

    • The Santa Cruz County Trial Lawyers Community Service Award: Christine Patton, Ellen Pirie, Sara Clarenbach, Marsha Shanle, Margaret Leonard 

Women attorneys by the numbers in voluntary & mandatory bars in Santa Cruz county: 
    • Women attorneys & judges in WLSCC: 106 (95% women); men attorneys & judges: 6
    •  Women attorneys in SCCBA: 129 (43% women); men: 172
    •  Women attorneys in SCCTLA: 11 (28% women); men 28
    •  CA State Bar members with Santa Cruz County address of record: it is difficult to obtain accurate numbers. There are 962 active and inactive attorneys in Santa Cruz County, but 321 of them have opted-out of all non-regulatory mailings, and thus do not appear on State Bar lists. Of the remaining 641 attorneys, there are approximately 231 women and approximately 410 men, (approximately 36% women). The numbers and percentages by gender are somewhat approximate due to inability to absolutely gender- identify names; the State Bar does not keep membership records by gender. 

 

Women Judges by the numbers outside Santa Cruz county: 

Outside Santa Cruz County, women have served in the following prominent positions: 
    
    •  Sixth District Court of Appeal: Patricia Bamattre- Manoukian, Wendy Clark Duffy [2005-2011], Adrienne Grover. (Since the inception of the Sixth District Court in 1984, Santa Cruz County women attorneys have consistently served with distinction as research attorneys for numerous Justices on the Court.) 

    •  California Supreme Court: Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Associate Justices Kathryn Mickle Werdeger, Joyce Kennard, Carol Corrigan; Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird (1977-1987), Associate Justice Janice Rogers Brown (1996-2005) 

    •  United States District Courts and Courts of Appeal: 235 women of the total 772 full-time federal judges (30% women) 

    •  United States Supreme Court: Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Sandra Day O’Connor (1981-2006) 

    •  Woman California Attorney General: Kamala Harris 

Bottom Line: It’s been quite a journey for almost four decades, and WLSCC looks forward to the next forty years. Stay tuned ... We sure will! 

© 2015-2018 Women Lawyers of Santa Cruz County